LAST July, I suggested that each of us have our self mid-year review. I suggested the book Eat Move Sleep by Tom Rath as a starting point in taking care of our body.

I thought that with the pandemic continuing to cause anxieties due to uncertainties, it would be good for us to try to focus on things we can control—our self.  Let us try to use this time to regulate ourselves in areas that was difficult to do in the past. Now that we have more time at home, I felt the best place to start is with sleep. Based on the book The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington, experts from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that the healthy amount of sleep for individuals between the ages of 18 and 60 is a minimum of seven hours.

What happens when we lack sleep? I summarized below an article I really found useful at, “10 Reasons Why Good Sleep is Important” by Joe Leech and medically reviewed by Atli Arnarson BSc, PhD, because I found it quite comprehensive and simple to understand:

1. Poor sleep is linked to higher body weight, and is strongly linked to weight gain. It even states that short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity in both children and adults.

2. Studies show that sleep-deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories because sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation. 

3. Sleep deprivation negatively affects concentration and productivity because sleep is important for various aspects of brain function, which includes cognition, concentration, productivity and performance.

4. Less sleep duration has also been associated with poor exercise performance and functional limitation in older women. In a study on basketball players, longer sleep was shown to significantly improve speed, accuracy, reaction times, and mental well-being.

5. Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke.

6. Sleep affects glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes risk. In a study of healthy young men, restricting sleep to four hours per night for six nights in a row caused symptoms of prediabetes. These symptoms resolved after one week of increased sleep duration.

7. Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality, sleeping disorders, and even associated with an increased risk of death by suicide. It has been estimated that 90 percent of people with depression complain about sleep quality.

8. Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function. It cited a large two-week study which found that those who slept less than seven hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept eight hours or more. It suggests that if you often get colds, ensuring that you get at least eight hours of sleep per night and eating garlic could be very helpful.

9. Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation like long-term inflammation of the digestive tract.

10. Sleep affects emotions and social interactions. One study found that people who had not slept had a reduced ability to recognize expressions of anger and happiness, along with important social cues and process emotional information.

In order to sleep better, suggests these six steps to better sleep:

n STICK TO A SLEEP SCHEDULE. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try to limit the difference in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour. If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you’re tired. Repeat as needed.

PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU EAT AND DRINK. Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.

CREATE A RESTFUL ENVIRONMENT. Create a room that is ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Doing calming activities before bedtime, such as taking a bath or using relaxation techniques, might promote better sleep.

LIMIT DAYTIME NAPS. Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you choose to nap, limit yourself to up to 30 minutes and avoid doing so late in the day.

REGULAR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY CAN PROMOTE BETTER SLEEP. Avoid being active too close to bedtime, however. Spending time outside every day might be helpful, too.

TRY TO RESOLVE YOUR WORRIES OR CONCERNS BEFORE BEDTIME. Jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.

At this time, I believe harnessing one’s energy is important to have the positive disposition we all critically need to get through this pandemic.

Sleep is one good area for us to do that. Let’s sleep right today.

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